Sermon for January 15, 2017 2nd of Epiphany “A Greater Task for You”
WWJD is an acronym that most of us are familiar with. What would Jesus do? It was a Christian fad sort of thing a decade or so ago. If we dig around a bit in “that drawer” many of us would find a bracelet or button or pin with WWJD on it.
I was reading this week and came across a story about WWJD from a youth’s perspective. The dilemma was that since she knew herself to be fully human, how could she begin to know the mind of the divine Jesus, let alone know what he would do.
The reading from John 1 is about John the Baptist and Jesus and the fact that John knew exactly who he was and what he was about. He was the one who pointed to Jesus and said “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one whom I said was coming”. Perhaps our role is not to be Jesus but to be ones who point to Jesus and say ‘there, in Jesus, is love and forgiveness and life abundant’.
So let’s start “in the beginning”. The first image in the Bible reveals a creative, compassionate God: “God’s Spirit hovered over the water” (Genesis 1:2). The word “hovered” is the same word used to describe a brood hen, lovingly watching over her young, warming the eggs and protecting the hatchlings. The Bible begins with clear hints of growth, development, and evolution. God is a dynamic creator, a verb more than a noun.
Looking at Creation in progress, “God saw that it was good” five times and “found it very good” after the sixth day (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). We all need to know that this wonderful thing called life is going somewhere and somewhere good. It is going someplace good because it came from goodness—a beginning of “original blessing” instead of “original sin.” Matthew Fox illustrated this rather well in his groundbreaking book, Original Blessing.
For some reason, most Christian theology seems to start with Genesis 3—which features Adam and Eve—what Augustine would centuries later call “original sin.” When you start with the negative or with a problem, it’s not surprising that you end with Armageddon and Apocalypse. When you start with a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it’s not surprising that you see the crucifixion as “substitutionary atonement” where Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.
That is not what most Christians believe. And this is not something the loving Jesus would do. Why did Jesus come? Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing. God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created it. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.
As our image of God changes, our image of God’s creation, including ourselves, changes as well. Jesus shows us what it looks like for God to be incarnate in humanity. He holds together the human and the divine so that we might follow him and do the same. The full, vibrant life that Jesus offers is big enough to include even its opposite: death.
Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic wrote a letter to her order and in part it said:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now.”
No we cannot be Jesus or John the Baptist. But we can point the way and more importantly we can live a life in a way that honours a God and Jesus who have always and will always love us. We can live our life as if it is a verb, going someplace. And with the loving God of Creation, the Spirit the breaths life and Jesus who lovingly nudges us, we can know that each day and our destination will be good, very good.